The first Zambian startup to get into YC is developing Africa's first card-issuing API ' TechCrunch

Over 40 African startups have been through YC in the last decade. Union54, a Zambian entrant, joins the list.Union54, a fintech company founded in 2013 by Perseus Martini and Alessandra Marini, stands for Union54. This startup, which was launched in the last year, claims it is Africa's first API for card-issuing cards. Union54 is not a product of a startup by chance. It was created by Zazu, formerly a couple.Zazu was established in 2015 in Zambia as a challenger bank. Zazu, like any fintech in Africa, had to develop its own debit cards so that customers could link to their wallets. Most often, Zazu had to wait for cards to be issued by partner banks in the country. Mlambo told me that they once had to wait 18 months.The founders worked with local banks to issue cards while they were still young. The banks were slow to respond. Mlambo told TechCrunch that we just realized that the bank or the processor was not equipped to answer our questions and provide the product we were looking for.Mastercard was the chosen partner for the startup. Why wait for banks when you could bag the ones who issue these cards first? The company claims that it was granted a Mastercard Principle membership.Zazu was authorized as a principal member to act as an issue bank.The founders discovered that in order to truly advance African fintech, they needed to make it easy for any African country's fintech to issue physical or virtual debit cards. Union54 was created by the Zazu team. Now, the platform has multiple APIs that allow any fintech to issue programmable debit cards.Our membership has been used to assist other companies and any African fintech that wants to issue its own cards. Mlambo explained that they can provide the service to other African fintechs by simply allowing them to come to us and plug into our APIs.According to the CEO, the company targets fintechs who don't want to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for setup fees in order to obtain physical or virtual cards. Union54 claims it can issue cards within weeks using an API that handles BIN sponsorship, program management, settlement and other features.Union54 is Africa's first API for card issuing. This opportunity has been overlooked by fintechs, who are more focused on other segments such as wallets and payment gateways. This is an interesting fact because all of the major players in these sectors end up trying to create physical and virtual cards for their customers, and often face difficulties doing so. Union54 is trying to fill that void. Although the platform is still in beta, Union54 boasts an impressive clientele who have signed up for its waitlist and are currently using it.These companies aren't B or C players, which is what makes them so fascinating. They are among the top 5% in African fintech. For me, they are now the golden generation in African fintech. It is a great time for a card-issuing company to have the opportunity to work with these leaders in the space. The CEO said that it means we have something people want to use every single day.The company's website lists eight possible uses for its API: acquirers/gateways (ledger-based), acquirers/gateways (buy now, pay later), credit unions, credit unions, credit card management, corporate cards, delivery companies, digital banks, credit card management, and credit card management.Union54 allows fintechs to design cards, set the currency and create a detailed catalog that details who will use them, their intended uses, when they will used, how they will used, and what they will do.Union54 charges fintechs per API call on a pay as you go basis. A flat fee of $7-9 is charged to a fintech company for creating a physical card. An undisclosed flat fee is added when a transaction takes place.Mlambo claims that getting into the summer batch at YC 2021 has enabled the company to sign-up its first customers as the majority of them came from YCs network. Mlambo says YC is a program that was worth the effort from the beginning.Union54 is the first fintech company from Zambia to be accepted into Y Combinator. It's a great honor. The second in Southern Africa. Global investors often view Africa from a West African perspective. As you'll know, our entry into Y Combinator confirms a part of our larger hypothesis that it is possible to serve Africa from friendly jurisdictions like Zambia.